America’s First Cowgirl

I don’t know what it was about the late 1800s but the kids it produced were absolutely the most amazing I’ve ever seen. This time it’s a girl—Lucille Mulhall. So, put your feet in the stirrups and grab hold of the reins. Don’t let this horse buck you off!

Lucille was born October 21, 1885 to Zachary and Agnes Mulhall. Zachary was an ambitious man and took part in the Oklahoma Land Rush in 1889. He claimed 160 acres then expanded to an 80,000 acre ranch north of Guthrie, Oklahoma. By the age of three, Lucille was riding horses by herself. By six she learned to rope and by seven, she rode the range with her dad doing real ranch work. Word of her skill quickly spread and by the ripe old age of 13, she was the star performer in a Wild West Show that her dad owned.

This young woman seemed ill-suited to the task with her petite figure and slight build but she bested her male counterparts.

Lucille was able to rope 8 men riding abreast. She roped, threw, and tied a steer in 28 ½ seconds. Trick-riding was also her speciality and she could shoot a coyote at 500 yards. Newspaper called her “Daring Beauty of the Plains,” “Queen of the Range,” and “Deadshot Girl.”

She totally amazed Teddy Roosevelt and they became friends. He gave her a saddle after one performance. Geronimo sent her a beaded vest and a decorated bow. She was much admired.

But, she couldn’t do any of this without a good horse and she trained one. His name was Governor and she taught him over 40 tricks. Among them, he could remove a man’s coat and put it back on, shoot a gun, roll a barrel, kneel and sit. She once remarked that he could do anything but talk. She just had an amazing connection with horses and the love was mutual.

When asked about her training methods, she said they involved three things—Patience, Perseverance, and Gentleness. I have to say they worked very well, not only with this horse, but others.

Her fame grew over the years and there were many firsts. One was the title: First Champion Lady Steer Roper of the World after the Winnepeg Stampede in 1913. She was twenty-eight.

No matter the rodeo, she bested every male contestant in steer roping, trick roping, and shooting. No one could beat her and it wasn’t from lack of trying.

Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives photo, NA 335-20. Lucille Mulhall rides astride in the first Calgary Exhibition and Stampede in 1912.

In 1907, she married Martin Van Bergen who was a cowboy singer and they had a son named Logan. But the marriage fell apart and ended in divorce. In 1919, she then married rancher Tom Burnett, owner of the Four Sixes Ranch but that didn’t last long either.

Lucille Mulhall died in a car wreck at the age of 55 in Dec. 1940, less than a mile from her home. She was posthumously inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame and the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.


What do you think it was about the 1800s that produced these remarkable kids? Was it that they had to be tougher growing up. Or was it their parents who encouraged this? I’m just amazed. I know my kids and grandkids at six years old couldn’t have roped a ham sandwich. I really failed them.

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America’s First Cowgirl — 24 Comments

  1. Wow, very talented, both female and the horse. It gad to have been the parents saying go for it. But she wanted it enough to learn how to do all that she did.
    The kids today, I am sure there are some talented this way, but with all the electronic and kids not being allowed to be outside, the talents have become how fast can you text. Times sure have changed.

    • Hi Veda……I’m glad you liked it. Lucille was a special girl. Her father not so much. He fathered some children by a mistress and evidently treated his wife shabbily. The jerk! Probably why Lucille couldn’t stay married. But she was very unique.

      Love and hugs!

  2. Good morning Miss Linda, wow what an interesting blog. Lucille certainly was an interesting lady and a very talented one, too. She had the right 3 ingredient recipe to make her dreams, talents, and ability shine. Patience, preserverence, and gentleness. Those 3 are a recipe for success. I believe children back then were not subjected to all the modern chaos that’s taking over our youth these days. They were limited and had to use their imaginations and physically abilities to gain their desires. Today’s children have no imagination because it’s all done for them with a touch of a button on a phone, computer, or tv.
    I salute this amazing lady, especially since she could out rope, out ride, and out compete against her male counterparts.
    Awesome blog, thanks for sharing. You have a great Monday Linda. Love you sister friend. ❤️

    • Hi, Miss Tonya…..I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I had a feeling you would since you share the love of roping and riding. I would love to have met her. What a neat lady. Her philosophy for training horses is the best. Horses should want to be ridden and do tricks on their own, not because they’re made.

      I totally agree with you about kids. These today are 100% different from the ones in the 1800s. And we’ve lost so much. Such a shame.

      Much love, sister friend!

  3. Parents raised their kids to be strong, independent, and self respect to do their best. We as parents today want our kids to have what we didn’t (which is not a bad thing), but we have made them selfish, lazy, and think that everything should be giving to them. I call this the “Me” generation. We aren’t doing them any favors by pampering them.

    • Hi Allison……You are so right. We’ve ruined today’s kids. Not good, especially since these today will be raising their kids down the road. I shudder to think how that works. I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

      Love and hugs!

  4. Maybe it was the spirit of the pioneers that fostered such brave and determined children. After all, they’d defied the odds and managed to carve out a life in the wild unsettled territory. Amazing story about Lucille. I’d venture to guess that her marriages fell apart because they weren’t man enough to handle her or else they wanted to change her. Great story, sister.

    • Hi Jan……I’m glad you enjoyed my post about Lucille. I think you’re right about the spirit and values of that time period fostering the drive to succeed in these amazing kids. As far as her marriages falling apart, from what I read, she couldn’t find any men who measured up to her father who she worshiped. But he was certainly no prize. He kept a mistress right under his wife’s nose and fathered children with her. We’ve got to get busy on our grandkids. They haven’t broken horses, roped steers, or ridden horseback across the country by themselves yet! Times a wasting!

      Love you, sister!

  5. I think the kids of that era had the word “can’t” erased from their vocabulary. They were encouraged by their parents to keep with something until they mastered it. When my son was growing up, he wasn’t allowed to say can’t when he was having trouble with a new task or homework. He could substitute “I’m having trouble with this” or ” I could use some help” instead of the word can’t. I love these amazing stories about the strength and perseverance of the trailblazers that came before us.

    • Hi, Edwina……Bless my soul. It’s so good to see you. I’m glad you liked reading my post. You did right by your son and that’s a fact. I’m sure he appreciates the values you taught him, although he might not’ve at the time. If parents today did that, we’d have a generation of doers instead of kids who can’t get their noses out of their games.

      Thanks for coming. Hugs!

    • Hi Anna……I’m so happy you liked my post. Lucille was amazing. History is so full of these people who did extraordinary things.


  6. I am impressed by the girl AND the horse! I wonder if her marriages didn’t last because she was more of a “cowboy” than her husbands were. 😉

    • Hi Cheryl C…….You may be right about her marriages. I’m sure there had to some some jealousy. I’m glad you enjoyed reading about her.

      Big hugs!

    • Hi Donna……Thanks for coming. I agree about today’s wimpy kids. But we’ve made them this way. Good luck in the drawing.

  7. I personally think kids were tougher because times were times were harder and they didn’t have all these phones gadgets etc that the children have now days

    • Hi Glenda…..Yes, I think you’re right. Kids were just tougher and they had some horse sense.

      Love and hugs!

  8. I love Annie Oakley. She was one tough lady. People back then had to be tougher. It was a rough life. I would’ve loved the old days. Free of all modern technology.

    • Hi Debra…….Annie Oakley was a very interesting lady and she had such skill. I love reading about her and wondering what her life must’ve been like.

      Good luck in the drawing. Hugs!

  9. Awesome blog and educational as always! Loved it! I would have thought Lucille was Texas woman if you hadn’t told me otherwise. Oklahoma is pretty close though. I believe the 1800’s produced very strong talented children because of the way they were raised. Country kids were taught that life is hard and you have to work harder. It’s funny though because the female city girls raised by a wealthy family also produced a lot of snooty couldn’t survive without a wealthy husband tarts too. One extreme to the other. Lucille was one amazing child and that carried on into adulthood! Too bad she died at 55 there’s no telling what else she could have accomplished.

    • Hi Stephanie…….Well, you know not everyone can be from Texas. 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about Lucille and speculating on the reason for kids’ toughness back them. I do see a correlation between wealth and the toughness of kids. They don’t do their kids any favors.

      Much love and big hugs!

  10. Wow Linda you have some of the best post so interesting. It almost seem people were smarter back then or learn some really important things for the time. I guess people where tougher back then compared to how we are now.

    • Hi Quilt Lady……I’m so glad you enjoy my posts. I really enjoy sharing pieces of history with everyone. If not for this blog, my head would be crammed with a lot of useless trivia. Except what I could put in my stories.

      Love and hugs!